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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/10/07)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


What a picture it makes in the morning – watching longtime Arlington Park jockey Randy Meier, mounted on a pony, leading a racehorse out to the racetrack during training hours – especially when the racehorse has Meier’s teenage son in the irons.

The recent announcement that Brandon Meier, 18, as the son of one of Arlington’s most popular and enduring riders, has decided to pursue his own career as a jockey makes this upcoming Father’s Day a special occasion for Arlington’s extended family. Most of that group – Meier’s peers in the jockey’s quarters, Illinois-based horsemen and a good portion of Arlington employees – has watched the young man grow up during their own tenure at Chicago’s Northwest oval.

Local mainstay Randy Meier, 52, has been a leading member Illinois’ jockey colony for more than two decades. Although born in West Point, Nebraska, where he began riding in his native state, he and his family are longtime residents of Chicagoland.

The veteran reinsman is on the cusp of the 4,000-win milestone in his career – a feat accomplished by fewer than 50 jockeys in Thoroughbred racing history.

More significant to Chicago Thoroughbred racing fans, Meier is the all-time leading rider at Sportsman’s Park and Hawthorne Race Course and in the top 10 among Arlington’s all-time leading jockeys.

During that period, Brandon Meier, was born in Elk Grove Village, graduated from St. Francis High School and then attended college for a year before coming home to begin his own career path dream.

“He’s wanted to be a rider forever,” said his father, “but I made a deal with him to at least try college for a year, and if he didn’t like it, I’d try to help he become a jockey. So he went to college for a year, and then came home to me and said, ‘Remember the deal?’ So now it’s my turn to hold up my end.

“The most important thing I can do is point him in the right direction,” said Randy Meier. “I can put him in with good people to start off his career, and if you hang with good people, you’re going to start off with the best opportunity.”

The first of those opportunities began earlier this month when the aspiring jockey began working in the barn of conditioner Wayne Catalano, Arlington’s leading trainer four of the last five seasons. An opportunity to work at Ocala’s Payson Training Center, owned and operated by J. J. and Todd Pletcher, is also under consideration.

“I’ve wanted to be a jockey since I was a little kid,” said Brandon Meier. “For a while, it looked like I was going to get too big, but now I seem to have leveled off at 5’ 7", and I weigh about 118. I’ll have to reduce a little, I know, but that is something worth doing.

“I know it’s not an easy life,” said the young man, “but I’m willing to work hard and make the necessary sacrifices. I’ve seen the ups and downs of being a jockey my whole life. I know that the prospect of being injured comes along with it. Those injuries come home, too. I’ve grown up seeing that.”

Finally, there are some anecdotes to this father-son riding relationship that are provided by Randy Meier’s daughter Emily, 23, an Elk Grove Village native who graduated from Miami University (of Ohio) before becoming Arlington’s marketing and promotions coordinator.

“Dad and Brandon used to sneak downstairs and work on Dad’s Equicizer (mechanical horse exercising machine) when my Mother wasn’t looking,” she said.

“But Dad also told me he would teach Brandon everything he knew,” she said, “except his own secret about how he is able to break from the starting gate as quickly as he does. That, he told me, he was saving until after he retired from his own career.”


One of the added attractions set for Father’s Day at Arlington Park June 17 will be the second edition of Arlington’s newest innovative bet – the Jockey Challenge wager.

The “Jockey Challenge” – a $2 wager – involves selecting the jockey that will accumulate the highest total win payouts during Sunday’s fourth through ninth races.

Winning jockeys in each of those races receive points equal to the $2 on-track win payoff on their mount in that race. Jockeys do not have to have a mount in all six races. The number of winning races by any one rider is secondary to the total of the winning payoffs.

For example, if Rene Douglas rides three winners paying $3, $4.60 and $8 (a total of $15.60) but Chris Emigh rides two for $10.20 and $9.60 (a total of $19.80) – Emigh is the winning ticket.

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